Fear by Dirk Kurbjuweit
by Amy Pirt
You’d die for your family.
But would you kill for them?
Fear is a fascinating novel to read in today’s climate of gun debate, and if you are interested in the real-life background which inspired Kurbjuweit, there is a great Guardian article by him here. The situation in the novel is, of course, totally different from America’s horror story, but the ‘us against them’ trope is firmly relevant here. When we rely on the law to solve our problems and the law fails us, what do we do?
Randolph Tiefenethaler lives with his wife and two children in a Berlin apartment. Their life is largely pleasant: they love their children and are comfortably off due to Randolph’s architecture career. However, their neighbour in the basement decides that they are sexually abusing their children. What’s more, he is also in love with Randolph’s wife. They seek legal advice and tell the police; they also offer to buy the neighbour’s apartment. We are always being told that ‘money talks’. But in Fear, ultimately, money means very little: it buys you neither peace nor happiness. But a gun? Now you’re talking. But who is to do the murder? Randolph, a father of young children, or his elderly father, an avid collector of weapons?
The ‘monster in the basement’ is not only their stalker neighbour, but also a metaphor for the couple’s various fears: for Randolph, that he does not love his wife anymore, that she is, in fact, abusing their children, and that he is becoming his father; for his wife, that Randolph is an abuser, that he does not love her anymore, and that she will never craft out a career for herself.
I was hoping, from seeing the cover, that Fear would be more a fast-paced, than psychological, thriller, and for me, the twist was unsurprising. But is remains an original and brave work.
Fear works backwards, much like Amis’s Time’s Arrow. It is not so much a whodunnit, as a whydunnit – indeed, some might call it a whydidyounotdoitsooner? You will have to read the novel and decide for yourself what you think.